Five surprising stats from the first half of the 2017-18 NHL season

Getty
4 Comments

Just about every team in the league has played at least half of its schedule for the 2017-18 season. There have been a lot of surprising results.

Let us take a quick look at a few of the more stunning ones.

1. Dustin Byfuglien only has one goal

Over the previous four seasons Byfuglien scored 70 goals, the fifth most out of any defenseman in the league. So far this season? He has one. Granted, he has also missed 12 games due to injury but still only have a single goal in 31 games is pretty stunning for Byfuglien given his track record. Especially since he still has one of the most powerful shots in the NHL and is still averaging close to two-and-a-half shots on goal per game.

2. Josh Bailey … potential 90-point scorer?

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how the 100-point scorer is trying to make a comeback this season with a handful of players all flirting with that pace. As of now Nikita Kucherov, Nathan MacKinnon and Claude Giroux are the only three still on that pace, but that would still be a stunning development given that only five players have done it since 2010-11. After them there are another five players on pace for at least 90 points — John Tavares, Steven Stamkos, Jakub Voracek, Blake Wheeler … and Josh Bailey?

Bailey is a solid player. This is his 10th season in the league. Before this season he has topped 40 points just two times, and only 50 points once (56 a year ago). He is just six points away from matching his career high with still half a season to play.

3. Everything involving Vegas

William Karlsson already with 22 goals after scoring only 18 in his career before the season. They’re also the fourth highest scoring team in the league. How about already having four different goalies that have each won at least three games? Or how about the simple fact they have already won 29 of their first 41 games. The 29 wins is already more than Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus, Minnesota, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and San Jose all won in their first seasons. They are only four behind what Florida and Anaheim did in their first seasons.

4. Michael Grabner has more empty net goals than assists

Michael Grabner is still chasing an obscure NHL record with all of his empty net goals. As of Tuesday he has more empty net goals (six) than assists (4). He has one of the most lopsided disparities between total goals and assists in the league (18-4) after doing the same a year ago (27-13).

Another surprising Grabner stat: Since the start of the 2016-17 season his 44 even-strength goals are the fourth most in the NHL, trailing only Auston Matthews (49), Nikita Kucherov (47), and Vladimir Tarasenko (45).

5. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been unbeatable for the Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning have a pair of MVP candidates in Kucherov and Stamkos, a Norris Trophy contender in Victor Hedman, and, very quietly it seems, a Vezina Trophy front-runner in Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Given how great their offense has been it can be easy for Vasilevskiy to get lost a little bit, but his play this season has been nothing short of spectacular.

He is already on top of the league with 26 wins (in 32 starts) and he is also carrying a .935 save percentage into the second half.

In the history of the league only six goalies have played at least 30 games in a season and finished with a save percentage above .935 — Jacques Plante in 1968-69 and 1970-71, Brian Elliott in 2011-12, Tim Thomas in 2010-11, and Cory Schneider in 2011-12.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

austonmatthews
Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.